Interview from The Press Republican
September 20, 2012
By ROBIN CAUDELL Press-Republican
PLATTSBURGH — Visual imagery, memory, naming and place are intrinsic to the poetry of Michael Carrino.
This impulse is evident in his artistic oeuvre and illuminated in his most recent collection, “By Available Light: New and Selected Poems,” published by Guernica Editions.
The collection’s title comes from a poem he wrote about a 1922 John Sloan painting “The City From Greenwich Village.” In the poem’s last stanza, Carrino writes:
“While Manhattan blazed above it all,
Sloan painted what he could:
New York, by available light.”
Carrino gives a reading of his new collection at 8 tonight in the Cardinal Lounge, Angell College Center at Plattsburgh State.
The 96-page book is broken into chronological sections from Carrino’s previous collections: “Some Rescues” (1994), “Under the Combustible Sky” (1998), “Café Sonata” (2003), “Autumn’s Return To The Maple Pavilion” (2008) and “New Poems” (2008 to 2011).
His continued presence on the literary front prompted his decision to do a collection in this manner.
“I had been writing right along,” said Carrino, a native New Yorker and retired adjunct instructor and lecturer of composition and poetry at Plattsburgh State.
“I had written some new poems, more than appears in this edition. I was writing. I said, ‘What’s next? Should I do another chapbook?’ Quite practically, I realized all four books were out of print. I realized I will be out of print. I have a few copies of each of the books. That’s me and not the rest of the world.”
As a writer of a certain age, Carrino started late. He earned his master of fine arts in writing from Vermont College of Norwich University in 1984. He had his first poem published around the same time.
“I don’t have a huge collection,” he said. “I was not thinking much about new and selected works. Usually, people have seven, eight or nine books. I had four books and all these new poems.”
Through friends, he got in contact with Guernica, and the Canadian publisher snatched him up for its “Essential Poet” series.
“That got me really picking and choosing, deciding and organizing what to leave in and leave out. I sent a tentative manuscript to them. Along with the editor, I made some changes over a period of time. Leave this in, and take this out. It just came about,” he said.
Over the years, Carrino has received a favorable response from across the border with journals such as the Dalhousie Review, Fiddlehead Review and Scrivener Review.
“In general, I’ve done fairly well in terms of publishing and the poets I met there,” he said.
He is a regular reader for Inanna Publications, a feminist press located at York College.
“The editor keeps sending me work. I enjoy that.”
His connections to Canada and the Canadian writers stem from his stint as poetry editor and co-founder of Plattsburgh State’s literary journal “The Saranac Review.”
“It built me some street cred in Toronto and Ontario. I’m big in Ontario, Nova Scotia and the Maritime Provinces,” he said.
In October, Carrino will participate in a group reading with Canadian-Italians. Guernica’s launch of “By Available Light” is in November.
“I feel good about it and good about the poems I picked,” he said. “I did keep it in progression from the first book, second book, third book, fourth book and the new poems. Even doing that, it feels pretty consistent the way it reads. I was really happy about it, how it came about.”
This fall, he’s sending a new batch of poems out into the world. Right now, he’s focused on his book launch in the United States and the upcoming one in Canada.
He began his poetic pursuits in high school. He steeped himself in the romantic poets, Shakespearean sonnets about wooing women and romance. In college, he dabbled and read books about the interface of poetry and visual mediums such as painting and photography.
His poem “Les Orangers” references an 1878 painting by Gustave Caillebotte and offers a visual — as well as an aural — feast.
“That was really a way for me to get started,” Carrino said. “I started to read William Carlos Williams and other poets more image oriented. The idea of seeing something, that kind of light intellectually as well as physically, you shine on something and make a difference in how things are perceived.”
Memory, how it works or doesn’t, is another passion. Many times he is asked if he is writing about his life.
“It’s sprinkled, seasoned with something that had to do with me and seasoned with things I’ve seen happen or hear about but mostly visuals — I see a person in the street or a couple talking or looking at a painting and my imagination.”
Many of his early poems deal with his Italian family.
“My perception on steroids of reality … what I remember,” Carrino said. “I could show that poem (“The Woman”) to five different relatives, and they would say ‘That didn’t happen.’ They would all have five different stories of an event or how their lives were or anything like that. It’s always interested me.”
Email Robin Caudell: firstname.lastname@example.org